October 15, 2013

Spinning and the Golden Mean

I continue to contemplate the Golden Mean and its applicability to my life. I'm not really comfortable talking much here about more general applications at the moment, because a lot of things are pretty bad right now, in ways I don't want to discuss, but the last couple of days while doing my morning spinning, I've been thinking about how it applies to that.

Charka spinning uses a technique known as long draw, meaning that drafting is accomplished in a single long motion using only one hand. I'm getting better at it, but the "magic trick" continues to elude me. What magic trick? Well, once you've spun a length, if you have the twist balanced right against the tension, you just pull gently, and the slubs (bumps, places where there's more fiber clumped up than in the rest of the thread) just smooth themselves out, because the thicker the thread, the less twist there is in it. It's hard to explain, exactly. If I ever get the hang of it, maybe I'll post a video or something. At the moment, though, I'm mostly still having to use my other hand to untwist a little just down from the slub and then draft, because I've put in too much twist. I also have problems with previous length sliding off the bobbin when I pull. Argh.

But it's very difficult for me to get just the right amount of twist. Too much, and the slubs are too tightly twisted and won't draw smooth. Too little, and the slubs just part under tension, and you lose some part of the length you've just spun.

Thickness of thread is a balancing act, too. You can spin whatever thickness you like, within a certain range, but it needs to be fairly consistent. A thick place has too little twist and will just fall apart. A thin part will have too much twist and get brittle and snap.

Today, I decided my bobbin was full enough, and wound it off in a skein -- the bottom of the skeins in the picture above, shown together for comparison to previous work -- and the improvement in my spinning showed. Previously, I've had three or more breaks in even a very short skein, like the top one, places where it was too thin or thick, weak spots that gave under the tension needed for winding the skein. This time I had only one break in my weightiest skein yet. It makes me feel a lot better about my progress, which can sometime be hard to see on a day-to-day basis.

Having wound the skein, I then had to boil it. Cotton fibers are coated in a waxy substance that needs to be melted off in order for the thread to take dye. The heat and moisture also helps set the twist, or get the fibers to "remember" their new shape and not come undone the moment tension is released. I usually just drop it in a glass container full of water and pop it in the microwave for several minutes. The cotton is done when it's thoroughly soaked and no longer floating on top of the water. Then it just needs to be dried out. It's still damp in the picture above, actually, and will be fluffier when dry.

The better I get at it, the more easily and naturally the motions come, the better it is as meditation. After the other day's fixation on Hadestown, though, I've learned to stick to music I don't get drawn into the lyrics of. Today, it was Mediæval Bæbes.

The ugly little pinchpot I keep my cotton seeds in is overflowing. Full moon is Friday, which is when I normally make my offerings. I'm trying to decide exactly how I want to dispose of these and the waste cotton. Burning, maybe? Kind of smoky, and I don't currently have access to my backyard fire bowl (it's buried under blackberry vines, as in pretty much the entire yard). Bury it? On the off chance some of those seeds are still viable (hey, they brought back the extinct Judean Date Palm from 2000 year old seeds), and the plants could survive the damp and cool, it's a fairly invasive species, and I don't want to do that to the local ecosystem, which has quite enough invasives as it is. Hem, hem, blackberries.

Finding balance is always hard for me, and always has to be dynamic. Life and context changes so often that keeping balance is like log rolling. It's even true with spinning. Different thicknesses, different fibers, even different breeds of the same fiber, the humidity, all kinds of things change the way you spin.

My life right now is incredibly unbalanced, but much of the reason for that is not really something I can just fix. I mean, I'm trying, but a lot of it depends on other people. I can try to find the best balance I can around that, but it's throwing me off so badly that everything else goes out of balance as well. My sleep cycle, my eating patterns, my medications, all of them are out of whack as a result of the one big imbalance. Try as I might, there's only so much I can do.

Maybe I need to let off some steam with Dionysos tonight.